November 6, 2022 at 3:13 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of an live interview with with Geoff Stone and Steve Gosk of Metalforming Inc.. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Hello, this is Heidi Ellsworth, and we are back at METALCON, live on the Metal Coffee Shop sound stage. And I have to tell you, I am really excited. We have big news, and we are breaking the news right here on the show floor. The new CEO for Metal Forming. Steve, congratulations.

Steve:

Thank you.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And welcome.

Steve:

Thank you. Good to be here.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And I think we’ve also broken the record too, because I have Geoff Stone here, who I didn’t think I would ever get him into the interview seat. And I’m pretty excited about it. So, Geoff, welcome.

Geoff Stone:

You’re lucky today.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I know. I’m just-

Geoff Stone:

It’s your lucky day.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I’m going to go put some money somewhere, because I do think I’m pretty dang lucky today. So, let’s start out, gentlemen, with some introductions. So Steve, can you introduce yourself, and talk a little bit about your experience, and just starting with Metal Forming?

Steve:

Sure. So, I’m now one week into the job, so I leave that as an asterisk on anything I may say. Can’t be held against me.

But have worked on the fringes of this industry, if you will. Started my career with Siemens, and in that experience, sales, sales leadership, operational roles, of marketing, P&L management. Sold capital equipment into various industries.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Excellent.

Steve:

Also, the portion of Siemens I was a part of, also sold in the construction industry.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Okay.

Steve:

So, a lot of the contractor, contractor relationships, and channel challenges, and such, I’ve been part of. Was there for over 20 plus years, and then did a 180 in my career and I went and ran a US subsidiary for a Swiss-based company called Fischer Connectors.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Very cool.

Steve:

So, I have the German and the Swiss experience, and time that I’ve spent with those manufacturers. And then, most recently, I was working for a company down south of Atlanta, called Southern States, selling capital equipment into the utility space. So, in a lot of ways, in that last role, I did a lot of fabrication responsibility. I was running one of their divisions. So, a lot of the types of machines that we are now representing are similar to what we would use in that process.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Well, welcome.

Steve:

Thank you.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Welcome. You finally found the home.

Steve:

There you go.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right here, right?

Geoff Stone:

We looked at a lot of candidates, and we vetted them very, very strongly. And he bubbled to the top very early on and ended up staying [inaudible 00:02:23].

Heidi Ellsworth:

I was going to say, I mean, I can-

Geoff Stone:

This is not something we did lightly or without a heck of a lot of [inaudible 00:02:27].

Heidi Ellsworth:

No. No. Because, Geoff, you have a long history in this industry. So first of all, why don’t you introduce yourself real quick? And then I would love for you to share with us a little bit about Metal Forming, and how you started it, and the history.

Geoff Stone:

Well, I’m Geoff Stone. I’m the founder Metal Forming. What really happened was, before that, before Metal Forming, I’ve stumbled over this technology in Europe called Schwenk [German 00:02:53]-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

… or swing bending machines, and I brought the technology to the US for another company. And then I became a partner with the German family who was a big provider of that technology. I renamed it folding, because swing bending-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

… sounded really awful.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

And my partnership with that German family ended in 1997, and I started Metal Forming. And after that, we just took off. And then we brought many, many, many other new technologies and companies to the United States. And after, as I’m getting ready to retire here, tomorrow’s our 25th anniversary-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes.

Geoff Stone:

… we sold 8,900 machines.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Whoa.

Geoff Stone:

And now it’s time for somebody else.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Someone else-

Geoff Stone:

Yes.

Heidi Ellsworth:

… to sell some of that. There you go.

Steve:

There you go.

Heidi Ellsworth:

It’s going to happen. Well, you know what, Geoff? I think, too, as you talk about bringing the machines in, and having Metal Forming, and really bringing that to the industry, I know, because this is how you and I met, that you also brought technology in with those machines-

Geoff Stone:

Well-

Heidi Ellsworth:

… a lot.

Geoff Stone:

… what made us successful was we spent a lot of time talking to customers, asking them what their problems were, and then we would go out into the world and try and find a solution.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

We don’t build anything. We’re not really engineers. We have a number of patents, and we have introduced a lot of new technology, but we’ve done it with European partners. Why European? Because there simply is no better engineering in the world than you’ll find in Germanic speaking countries of Austria, Switzerland, and Germany.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

That’s where all of our stuff comes from.

Heidi Ellsworth:

[inaudible 00:04:25].

Geoff Stone:

So, the engineering is absolutely superior. They come up with the most elegant solutions to the problems we bring them, and then we teach them how to market them.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. And you’ve done an amazing job at that.

Geoff Stone:

We’ve been successful and the company’s grown beautifully, and we believe that we can double the size of the company over the next five years. And that’s the result of bringing in new talent, new energy, new ideas.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

And it’s time.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And everything. It’s time. Well, I have to say, walking past your booth here at the show, at METALCON, it’s huge. You have an aisle, the walk goes through the middle of your booth. It’s that big. Steve. I mean, looking at that, and looking at all the machinery, I know you just started, but that’s pretty dang impressive. With your history, to see that, to see all the opportunity and potential.

Steve:

For me, there’s a saying that, “A mature company should never forget the reason why it was born.”

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Steve:

And I listen to Geoff, and he talks about how he got in this business, and the focus on the customer, the focus on solving the customer’s problems, partnering with premier companies with high-end engineering capability, design capability, and driving that level of customer service, to take care of the customer’s problem. It is a great base to start from.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Steve:

And we need to take that and build upon it, but not lose the core competencies and the core reasons the company came to be to begin with. And that’s going to be our challenge, is to grow the business, and scale the business, but not lose any of the core reasons why the business came to be. Which in the end, talks about taking care of the customer with technology that solves their problems-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Steve:

… and items that they need to do. So, at that level, I think we have an opportunity to continue to evolve. I mean, the world’s evolving.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Steve:

Our customers’ evolving. Our competitors’ evolving. Technology’s evolving. I mean, so like any company, we need to evolve and leverage all of that. But we have a great foundation to start from.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Everything. Whenever I get an opportunity to watch Chad work those machines, over there, and how it comes. Basically, I mean, I know we talked about that there’s opportunities from drones to take measurements, to come into the machine, and then to do some programming. It’s pretty impressive.

Geoff Stone:

Well, that actually turned out to be pretty successful. On the other hand, I did not exploit that inside of Metal Forming. We started another company-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Okay.

Geoff Stone:

… that still exists today, called Pointivo-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes.

Geoff Stone:

… that has done the exploitation of that technology. I didn’t feel like Metal Forming was a software company.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

And that we’re a hardware company.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

And I didn’t think we would do a good job of that. I still own a chunk of Pointivo-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Pointivo.

Geoff Stone:

… company, and we passed that technology onto them when the company started. But it was one more example of how we looked at problems, and we said, “There has to be a better way to do this, and there’s technology and we just have to figure it out.”

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. Exactly.

Geoff Stone:

So, in that particular case, we didn’t go to Europe. We went to Georgia Tech University, and-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes. I remember. I was there.

Geoff Stone:

We developed that with the civil engineering group, there. But we own the technology through the development, and it’s been very successful-

Heidi Ellsworth:

And it’s bringing-

Geoff Stone:

… up to now.

Heidi Ellsworth:

… that technology to the contractors with the machines. Whether it’s in sheet metal shops, however they’re functioning, they’re able now to take that to a whole new level.

Geoff Stone:

Yes. It’s really universal in the roofing contractor business today.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

And now, the other part of our business that’s evolving very rapidly is automation.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Okay.

Geoff Stone:

The problem that everyone’s having with labor, with finding labor, keeping labor, finding qualified labor, has just become enormous. The pandemic, of course, created it, or grew that problem exponentially. And it still exists. And we’re seeing a lot of movement toward automation, and we are developing a lot of automation products with our European vendors, as we speak. And even though I won’t run that path anymore, Steve will, I believe, over the next five to 10 years, that automation is going to be the entire story.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Well, and with that automation, they only need a technician running the machine. Correct?

Geoff Stone:

More or less. And actually, the machines are so intelligent now, and have the ability to communicate so well, that we can monitor those machines remotely, very, very easily.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow. Okay. That’s a-

Geoff Stone:

It’s called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Internet of things.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

And all of our European vendors are compatible to that technology. And we are doing much more remote support now than we ever did before, and I think that’s going to grow exponentially-

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s huge.

Geoff Stone:

… as well.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Where they can call in and get that-

Geoff Stone:

We just talk directly to the machine.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

We don’t bother with the customer.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow.

Geoff Stone:

So, I mean, they got to call us and tell us-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

… something is wrong.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. Yeah. But then you’re able to talk directly to it.

Geoff Stone:

But clearly, we can go into the controls, and we can see so many things, from so many sensors. And actually, the machines are also in process of beginning to communicate with each other. So, a slitting machine can communicate with a folding machine. And the folding machine can tell the slitting machine, “Hey, I need some of this.”

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow.

Geoff Stone:

And the slitting machine can change the coil, produce the some of this, and send it to the folding machine. That’s all underway right now.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s all…

Geoff Stone:

And it’s real. It’s in its infancy. It is real-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

… and it is developing, and it will be the future.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Well, I was going to ask you, what’s next? What’s the focus today?

Geoff Stone:

That’s-

Heidi Ellsworth:

And you just, “Automation.”

Geoff Stone:

It’s just automation. We all know that it’s a shame that the American education system has not produced workers for factories.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

They simply have not done so. And so, we have to do it ourselves.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right. And technology always steps in.

Geoff Stone:

Now, there’s lots of new jobs for lots of smart people that want to take care of this equipment.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

I mean, robots take service.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

And we’re currently integrating our first robots with machines, and there’ll be a different opportunity for workers, coming along. And if you think about it, it’s not a great thing to stand in front of a folding machine all day long and flip parts back and forth. So, if we can automate the processes that are less desirable work-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yup.

Geoff Stone:

… and that’s a very positive thing. And I think you’ll see that over the next decade.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

Big time.

Heidi Ellsworth:

It becomes quality of work, life.

Geoff Stone:

Yeah.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

Yeah.

Heidi Ellsworth:

As it’s going through.

Geoff Stone:

Yeah.

Heidi Ellsworth:

So, Steve, with your experience, and so many surrounding industries working with machinery and selling it, how do you see…? I mean, to me, we’re very prejudiced when it comes to the metal and roofing world, but it seems to me like this is cutting edge. Is that what you’re seeing coming from…? That this is just taking the lead?

Steve:

From my perspective, there’s a lot of commonality-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Steve:

… in the different areas, in different space, servicing commercial and residential construction market, in general. A lot of the same challenges. But I think what Geoff mentions, holds true. I mean, every place is challenged with finding workers.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes.

Steve:

Every place is looking for efficiency gains, productivity gains. I mean, that’s commonplace, and a lot of the equipment I’ve been involved with in my past does just that. So the trend is there. For me, personally, I’m very fortunate there’s so much talent inside of our organization, and technology-knowledgeable people that are inside our organization, that gives me a little bit of breathing room, and people to learn from. And that’s what’s been so wonderful about this week.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Steve:

Is sitting here with virtually every machine, almost machine type represented. Where I can see it run, I can understand what’s behind it, and actually listen in as we talk to customers.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Steve:

So, it’s been a great experience for me to be here this week.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. That’s excellent.

So, Geoff, you’ve been doing this for quite a while. And-

Geoff Stone:

A long, long time.

Heidi Ellsworth:

A long, long time. Advice to contractors who want to start sheet metal shops, who want to start fabricating or doing metal forming. What is some of your advice on how they can get started?

Geoff Stone:

Well, they should think about buying modern technology.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes.

Geoff Stone:

And not look for the older style of equipment, because there’s just a significant advantage, and many, many benefits to modern technology. Servo driven products as opposed to old hydraulic driven products, and the like. And the other thing I would recommend, that they understand that when they buy a piece of machinery, they’re buying more than that. They’re buying the company that supports it. And they ought to spend a significant amount of their decision time thinking about that, as well.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

What is the company? What’s their reputation? What is their financial stability? What is their ability to service? Because it’s more than just buying a piece of machinery.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

You need to buy a partner.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

And that partner needs to be able to provide you with a wide variety of tools and services. And that’s how we built Metal Forming. First, we sold a guy a folding machine. Then we sold him a shear. Then we sold him a roll forming, a portable roll forming machine. And then he grew up, and then we sold him a 20 foot long yarns machine. And then we sold them coil processing equipment. Find somebody you can grow with. Find somebody you can trust.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes.

Geoff Stone:

Find somebody that’s got real financial stability. And pay attention to that, as well as the machine and its features and functions.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right. I really like what you’re talking about with service, too. Because, if you think about it, what you just said earlier, your techs, your specialists are going to be talking to that machine directly. How often does that happen? And it’s not happening all the time out there, so that’s the kind of stuff… It’s like, I always think, when you want to buy a new phone, right? I’m always like, “Get the newest one, because then I only have to learn it, and maybe it’ll last me a couple years.”

Geoff Stone:

The other thing that’s ongoing at the moment, that’s also in its infancy, is we represent an Austrian company called microC, who has a software called Bendex. And that software can drive all of the machinery. So, a customer can go online, look at the Bendex software. Order what he needs, including custom shapes for trim and so on. He can send that information into the software. The software will send him back a quotation automatically. If he decides to buy it, he sends his order in, and that order is instructions to the machines, what to produce and how to produce it.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow.

Geoff Stone:

It’s real. It’s live today.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

It can be done today. Now, it’s very new for a lot of customers, and it’ll take a while for them to fully accept it. But that’s what’s happening.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

And that technology is not tomorrow. That technology is today. We have it right now.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And it’s the future.

Geoff Stone:

Of course, it’s the future.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

Of course, it’s the future, because it eliminates the need for all kinds of people to be involved in the process.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right. Right.

Geoff Stone:

And it works.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s it.

Geoff Stone:

So…

Heidi Ellsworth:

And that’s what it’s really coming down to. We aren’t going to have that many people, and we have to be able to automate.

Geoff Stone:

We’ve got to provide the customer with the product he wants to buy. We better figure out how to do it with a hell of a lot less resources.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Geoff Stone:

Especially human resources.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Especially human resources. Yeah, that’s just a given.

So, Steve, I know you’re just getting into this, but I would always say one of the first things for contractors to do, who want to get into this, and want to get new machinery, is come to the METALCON show. Right? I mean, I saw your booth over there. I saw the machines. You can learn more there than I think anywhere.

Geoff Stone:

It’s a good idea to touch and smell it.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

It really is.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. We like to touch things in this industry.

Steve:

It’s unusual to have a show where so much equipment is here, and actually energized and able to demo right on the spot. Had a great discussion this morning, which epitomizes the type of person coming through the show. An individual coming in. He’s a roofing contractor. He’s thinking about fabricating his own sheet metal. He’s thinking about doing that, and potentially growing into where he’s fabricating for other customers, as well. And we started with a portable onsite machine, and got into a discussion, as Geoff mentioned, into a folder, into a slitter. I mean, it just built from there. And what it would take for him to make that investment to get in the business.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right.

Steve:

And the other takeaway for me was, as an independent contractor, that’s a big investment. I mean, that may not be big dollars for a major corporation, but it’s a big investment for that person.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yes.

Steve:

And to Geoff’s point, they’ve got to trust who’s standing behind that equipment, whether it’s startup, whether it’s training, or whether it’s a down situation where they need field service.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Steve:

So, it really resonated with me, sitting here today, and watching them see firsthand how the equipment works, what it could do for them, and all the different types of product that just interlinked. And to Geoff’s point, this Bendex software, as I’ve been learning about it, I mean, it’s literally replacing companies that were doing handwritten quotes, and handwritten instructions, and then having to key into their machines what has to be built. It’s really a lot of efficiency gains.

Geoff Stone:

The software’s so intelligent that if a customer sends a drawing in of something that can’t be produced, the software knows it and tells them, “Can’t make that.” them part.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow. That’s a-

Geoff Stone:

It’s really remarkable.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Save time. And no duplicate entry. That everything is working, and to the delivery. And when it gets on site, the production, it’s right to go too. I think that’s the other big thing. You don’t want to waste the time. We only have so many roofers in the field too. It needs to be easy for them.

Geoff Stone:

They make their money on the roof.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

They make their money in the installation process. Anything that we can do that makes the installation process more reliable, and more simple, is a way to increase a contractor’s profits.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah.

Geoff Stone:

And that’s what we do.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s what you do.

Geoff Stone:

That’s it.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And you do it very well.

Geoff Stone:

Thank you.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Thank you. And thank you. This has just been a delight. So, the big announcement, as we all know, new CEO of Metal Forming. Geoff is going to retire.

Geoff Stone:

I’m going to retire.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s big news.

Geoff Stone:

52 years is long enough.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I know. Does the anybody really believe you?

Geoff Stone:

I don’t know. I believe me.

Heidi Ellsworth:

You believe you. I love it.

Geoff Stone:

My wife hates the idea, but I’m going to do it.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah. But it’s all good. And I do want to say too, I mean, if you’re not here at METALCON, you can find all this information. You can have these conversations, to really understand what you need, because that’s part of exactly what Metal Forming does, is to understand your needs and to bring that together. Whether that’s a phone call into the company, getting on Metal Coffee Shop, in Roofer’s Coffee Shop, going to the directory, finding out what’s going on. We’re going to have a lot of articles. This is cool stuff. A lot of great automation. New technology that just makes it fun. So. One last question. 25 year anniversary. So, you’re having a little bit of a celebration tonight.

Geoff Stone:

We are. We’ve invited numerous customers to stop by for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and so on. And we thought that 25 years was an important anniversary, and we wanted to share it with the guys that made it possible, which is the customers.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right. That’s great. Well, and you also invited us, so, thank you.

Geoff Stone:

Yes.

Heidi Ellsworth:

We’re going to be there, too.

Geoff Stone:

Well, good.

Heidi Ellsworth:

We’re going to be listening to those customers-

Steve:

Yeah.

Heidi Ellsworth:

… and all their great stories.

Geoff Stone:

Come visit us.

Heidi Ellsworth:

We will.

Geoff Stone:

We’ve got an open bar.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Oh, dang. Oh, dang. I love that.

Geoff Stone:

Yeah.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Well, Geoff, again, thank you.

Geoff Stone:

You’re welcome.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I got you right before retirement. Thank you for being here, and thank you for this interview. This has been phenomenal, as always. You always have such great information.

Geoff Stone:

Nice to see you, and see him next year.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I will.

Steve:

Perfect.

Heidi Ellsworth:

We’ll have you here next year, right?

Steve:

Absolutely.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Or maybe even a little bit in between.

Steve:

Maybe.

Heidi Ellsworth:

You never know.

Steve:

Maybe.

Heidi Ellsworth:

On certain podcasts. We’ll give you a little bit more time to slide in.

Steve:

There you go.

Heidi Ellsworth:

But thank you. Congratulations, again.

Steve:

Thank you.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And we’re really looking forward to seeing the next 25 years years.

Steve:

My pleasure. Thanks Heidi.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That’s so great.

Geoff Stone:

All right.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And thank you all for being here. This was a Roofing Road Trip, live at METALCON. So, you’re going to be able to hear this, not only on YouTube, but you’ll be able to see it on our podcast channels. Which you can always find our podcasts on Roofer’s Coffee Shop, or Metal Coffee Shop, under Read Listen Watch. So, don’t miss a single one. Be sure to set your notifications so you see us all week.

This is it for today. We’re going to go to the 25th anniversary, and go visit with our Metal Forming friends. But we’ll be back tomorrow morning. Lots of interviews, straight from METALCON. Thank you, and have a great eve-





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